Heading back to school? Get kids up-to-date on vaccines

It’s that time of year again as parents, students, and schools prepare for the start of the school year.

Posted 08/11/2017

By Melissa Anderson

Many families are working to complete their back-to-school shopping list, but one item that is not on that list that needs to be checked is making sure your children are up-to-date on their vaccines.
“Ensuring children are up to date on vaccinations is the best way to keep students healthy and stop the spread of infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and pertussis in our schools,” Cavalier County Public Health District nurse Terri Gustafson stated.
Besides the obvious benefit of stopping the spread of disease within schools, other benefits of immunization occur for both parents and children. For parents, the likelihood of having to miss time at work due to caring for a sick child and children missing school due to vaccine preventable disease decreases. Also, there is decreased health care costs as a result of not needing medical care for preventable disease
“Children who are not immunized are not only at risk of becoming ill from a variety of diseases but are also able to transmit diseases to others, including those who may not be able to be vaccinated due to various medical conditions,” Gustafson shared.
Unsure if your child needs to get their vaccines up-to-date? The North Dakota State Health Department understands that parents and guardians have their hands full and will notify parents of children in identified age groups at certain times of the year. Immunizations in North Dakota are entered into a state registry and records are available to health agencies when clients present for appointments.
The Cavalier County Health District also sends reminders to parents of children of all age groups when vaccines are due.
“Prior to the beginning of each school year, immunization records of students entering kindergarten and 7th grade are assessed for needed immunizations and reminder cards are mailed to parents,” Gustafson said.
Annually, as school begins, all student vaccination records, which are required to be in each student’s file, are assessed for completion of required vaccines. Children have a 30 day grace period from the start of the school year before they will be excluded from school for not meeting immunization requirements according to ND Century Code 23-07-17.1
While North Dakota, as a whole, has seen a decrease in vaccination rates over the past decade, Cavalier County has maintained its vaccination rate within the higher 90 percent. As a result of achieving this level of continued vaccination rates, the communities of Cavalier County are able to enjoy the benefits of “herd immunity”, but it should be noted that this is only achieved when 95 percent of the population has all of their vaccinations.
“Cavalier County, almost universally, meets the needed level of immunization for herd immunity, but it is important for individuals not to become complacent as people commonly travel, and vaccine-preventable diseases can be introduced easily to a population from elsewhere,” Gustafson stated.
There are 14 childhood diseases that are currently able to be prevented by way of vaccination. While only one disease, smallpox, has been completely eradicated, many of the others were reduced or eliminated from countries where vaccination rates were high. Due to hysteria surrounding the safety of the vaccines themselves, these efforts have now been negated as discredited sources give false information to the public on vaccines that, for years, have kept the general public healthy.
The Cavalier County Health District works to provide vaccinations to everyone in order to promote a healthy community no matter their economical situation. Children who are American Indian, on Medicaid, uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines can receive vaccines at no cost through the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC).
“Cost should not be a barrier to getting children up-to-date on vaccinations as almost all insurance companies cover the cost of preventive vaccines. Parents should check with their healthcare provider to find out what vaccines their child may need,” Gustafson said.
To check the vaccine schedule recommended by the ND Department of Health, please visit
The Cavalier County Health District has a scheduled immunization day, which is the third Tuesday of every month, or appointments can be made.
Call 701-256-2402 or stop in to see if your immunizations are up-to-date or to schedule an immunization.